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Why Leinster man Eric O'Sullivan was 'delighted' with opportunity of Ulster move

 

By Jonathan Bradley

The wicked and Ulster's loosehead props - two groups for whom there is no rest.

With Kyle McCall injured, Rodney Ah You allowed to move on and Schalk van der Merwe not yet selected, both Andy Warwick and Eric O'Sullivan have taken part in all 10 of the province's games to date.

O'Sullivan especially could be forgiven for relishing the two-week break just gone, but instead can't wait to get back into the action against Scarlets on Friday (7.35pm kick-off, Parc y Scarlets).

The Dublin native joined the Ulster Academy in the summer of 2017 having previously represented Leinster Under-20s but had not made a senior appearance in his career before taking on the Welsh side in the reverse fixture that opened this campaign.

Now, he has proven so indispensable that he's been named in every one of Dan McFarland's Ulster teams.

"It's been incredible, it's been such a great opportunity," said the 22-year old.

"I came up here and I was so hopeful of getting the opportunity and making a name for myself here, and I've just been delighted playing week in week out.

"The group of lads I'm playing with, there's so much experience around the squad it's been great, and there's a lot of youth in there as well, but it's a very positive environment to be in at the moment and I'm happy to be out there wearing the jersey."

The senior exodus continues - both Chris Henry and Ah You have exited the scene since the team last took the field - and the theme of the season has undoubtedly been to give youth a chance.

With so many youngsters blooded, it must be remembered that many, especially those exposed to the dark arts of the scrum, are learning on the job.

"There's a lot thrown at you and you just have to take it all in," said O'Sullivan.

"Then, when you get a chance, take a look back over it all and try to make sense of it and put it into practice.

"You have backs coming up to you helping you with lines, running lines, shape; at the same time, at scrum-time you have Rory (Best) in your ear telling you height, body angle, all this; then Marty Moore, Ross Kane, Wiehahn (Herbst), they all have nuggets there in the front row.

"There's definitely a lot to learn in there."

The game-time this season could be seen as just reward for his big decision to come north and leave his Leinster roots.

For O'Sullivan, however, there were never any doubts that he was making the right call.

"It was never in doubt, once that call came I was always coming, I was just delighted to get that opportunity. I've just been delighted," he said.

"It was something I've always told my mum and dad since I started playing rugby, that's something I want to do, and I'm so grateful to Ulster for giving me that opportunity to come up here and, so far, make that a reality."

His parents have been thrilled to see him make good on the claim too, missing only two of his games this season - the matches in South Africa!

"They know (the journey) off by heart now," he laughed.

"They're so delighted for me, they've put so much work in, driving me to training and bringing me home, cooking my meals, probably not seeing too much of me either with late nights after school and stuff like that.

"But they're very happy for me and I know I always have their support - they come to every game they can get to, I think the only ones they've missed so far were in South Africa.

"I definitely have them in my corner anyway."

The Leinster connection remains though, both in where he plays and who he'd like to emulate.

"I always remember watching Cian Healy, he was so explosive and dynamic. He was always someone I looked up to big time, especially being in Leinster. I remember watching him running round Maxime Medard... that's the kind of thing that sticks in the memory when you're talking about a loosehead prop," said O'Sullivan.

"He was the first of those modern props. He set the tone going forward.

"I played back-row for a few years. Leinster sort of said there'd be better opportunities going forward in the front-row and that's the sort of advice you take on board."

Now he's reaping the rewards in the white of Ulster.

Belfast Telegraph

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